5 No Nonsense Presidents in Africa
Africa has had its fair share of leaders, some great and others worse. Among them, there have been a few presidents who stand out for their no-nonsense approach to governance.
These leaders were not afraid to take decisive action, root out corruption, and implement tough policies to improve the lives of their citizens. They stood firm in their convictions and refused to be swayed by outside pressures. Let’s take a closer look at five of these no-nonsense presidents in Africa, making an impact on their countries and the continent as a whole.
5. Olusegun Obasanjo: The first African military head interested in democracy
Olusegun Obasanjo served as Nigeria’s military head of state from 1976-1979, and as its president from 1999 to 2007. He became the first African military head of state to hand power over to a democratically elected government in Nigeria’s second republic under President Shehu Shagari (1979). Obasanjo chose to return to democratic rule at a time when several African military rulers were reluctant to release power to elected governments. His act showed a commitment to Nigeria’s democracy.
Obasanjo, unlike other military men, did not seize power, but when power fell to him, he oversaw budgetary cutbacks and an expansion in access to free school education. Reports say he played a strategic role in combating Biafran troops, which led to their surrender in 1970. Also, during his two-term as President, he depoliticised the military and expanded the police. To limit the country’s growing debt, he privatised various public enterprises.
4. Paul Kagame: The Iron fisted Liberator
Paul Kagame is the fourth and current president of Rwanda. Known as a former military leader, Kagame led the East African country from the ruins of a devastating 1994 genocide that left nearly one million people dead to be hailed by Western allies as the model for growth in Africa. He served as the commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and was instrumental in quelling the 1994 genocide.
As the leader of the RPF, Kagame fought fiercely to take the city, as he fought he recruited Tutsi survivors and refugees from Burundi to expand the army. Despite the superior manpower and weapons of the government forces, the RPF steadily gained territory.
Using the psychology of warfare, Kagame through the RPF defeated the Rwandan government forces in Kigali, Gisenyi and the rest of the northwest, forcing the interim government into Zaire and ending the genocide. Kagame has been firm in his approach to leadership, holding leaders accountable for their position and moving Rwanda forward. In 2021, he called out Europe and North America for hoarding vaccines, accusing them of bulk-buying excess doses directly from manufacturers. The country has been nicknamed “the Singapore of Africa” for its technological advances.
3. Kais Saied: The man who won the election with the slogan “The People Want”
Kais Saied is the current and 8th President of Tunisia, who has been described as an all-powerful president. Kais is known for advocating populism, a clean break with the political class, the institutions, and the elites in general. He took advantage of Tunisia’s need for a saviour after his predecessor Beji Caid Essebsi 2019 failed to keep his promises. He gathered disappointed youths and conducted an unusual campaign. Void of a program and a party, these young people had only a plain leaflet with a portrait of Kais Saied and his famous slogan: “The people want”. The campaign which was sponsored by the conviction of young people and the hope for a change attracted the support of political contenders who had earlier contested with him. With all this support, he won the Presidential election hands down with 72.71% of the vote on 13 October 2019.
When he became President, he suspended the activities of Parliament, marginalised the Assembly of the People’s Representative, ARP and its speaker, and sacked a head of government with whom he was in open conflict.
2. John Pombe Magufuli: The Bulldoser
John Pombe Magufuli, one-time president of Tanzania is known for his numerous bans. Days after taking office in late 2015, he cancelled the symbolic independence day fete and directed all the funds budgeted for the event to be used to widen a part of a highway notorious for gridlocks in the main city of Dar es Salaam. He sacked a number of government bigwigs in his anti-corruption crusade and forbade all public hospitals from televising entertainment programmes.
He also halted all foreign trips for public servants, because according to him they were wasting taxpayers’ money by making frequent foreign trips. He also reportedly banned political rallies amongst others. The late president laid a solid foundation for the current president, Samia Suluhu Hassan who is relatively doing well.
1. Yoweri Museveni: Anti LGBTQ
Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda is known to fiercely oppose the LGBTQ movement. In his country, gay sex is punishable by life in prison. Reacting to calls from the west to join the movement, President Yoweri Museveni said Uganda will not embrace homosexuality. He told the west to stop seeking to impose its views on dissenting countries to “normalise deviations”. He said, “We are not going to follow people who are lost. These Europeans are not normal, they don’t listen.” He recently described gay people as “deviants” and called for an investigation into homosexuality. Uganda is among 77 countries that criminalise gay and lesbian practices, according to the United Nations.
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